Q: What does it cost to install and maintain a solar panel installation? Are maintenance costs higher if there’s a good chance of storm or hail damage?
A: Home electricity prices aren’t coming down, and knowing that, many folks are making the switch to solar. The good news: It’s cheaper and easier than ever before.
Solar sales and usage have soared over the last few years, as the price of panels has dropped significantly. With cheaper panels and a key federal tax break, the U.S. solar industry grew by 34 percent in 2014 alone.
Incentives for Going Solar
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The typical home solar panel installation costs from $15,000 to $40,000. The panels and operating system comprise half of the cost, while the rest comes from labor, permits, inspections and operational expenses.
Out-of-pocket costs drop significantly when you factor in the federal investment tax credit , which knocks 30 percent off solar installations for residential and commercial properties.
Expenditures decrease even further with various state and local incentives, which differ widely, depending on where you live. Louisiana has one of the more dramatic examples, with a 50 percent state tax credit up to $12,500. So on a $25,000 installation, a resident of Louisiana can save a whopping $20,000 by combining the federal and state tax credits.
As for maintenance, since solar panels are typically made of tempered glass, they can take a beating from wind and hail, but you’ll want to add them to your homeowners insurance policy, just in case. The minimal rate increase is well worth the cost.
Solar Tax Credit Less in 2017
Now is the time to go solar. While the federal tax credit may be extended, it drops from 30 to 10 percent at the end of 2016. Some state and local breaks have already expired, and others are on the chopping block. Louisiana’s disappears in 2016.
Still, with the falling price of equipment and a rise in marketplace competition, it’s worth considering the benefits of investing in solar.
Angie Hicks is founder of www.AngiesList.com, provider of consumer reviews and services. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet with #AskAngie. Follow her @Angie–Hicks.